Thursday 8 October 2009

Ben Nelson is amenable to the opt-out compromise

Schumer and Carper talked to a “large number” of Senators about the public option opt-out proposal last night, and the plan seems to be winning Senate Democrats over in a hurry. Nelson already said he likes the idea of leaving it up to the states; this is huge because Nelson is arguably the Democrat most likely to screw Obama over on cloture. Wyden isn’t crazy about it (he hates the insurers so much that he wants them whacked even more), but I think he’d vote for it. A Baucus aide seemed to think Baucus could be persuaded; I think the Blue Dogs are looking for a way out.

Conrad said he doesn’t know enough about the opt-out plan, but he likes the opt-in plan and its author, Carper. Surely Conrad wouldn’t defy his party and support a Republican filibuster just on the difference between an opt-out and an opt-in. Conrad also voted for the Cantwell formula and said some good things about the Schumer formula even though he voted against it.

Meanwhile liberals (with a few exceptions like Larry O’Donnell and Firedoglake) like the opt-out because it’s much better than some of the other compromises being floated. Howard Dean has just endorsed it also.

And here’s a reason why very few states will actually opt out: the Finance Committee bill, and the others bills too I think, expand Medicaid eligibility, but the federal government doesn’t pay for all of the increase – the cash-strapped states must cough up more money. If a state opts out of the public option, they would get a bigger bill for those Medicaid patients, without ALSO getting the public option money, and they’d also lose the increase in tax revenue which other states would get by shifting people from tax-free health compensation to taxable wages. So very few states will opt out. And notice that all those Republican governors who condemned the stimulus money…took the stimulus money. So they’ll take the public option too – if they want to survive in office.

More reasons to be cheerful:

First, eight thousand people have already signed the petition to Harry Reid – any Democratic Senator who supports a Republican filibuster on health care loses his committee chair…Oops! It’s now 14,000 and rising.

Second, McConnell asked Bob Dole not to support the health care reform effort. Dole blew him off. Dole, the architect of the Kill-Hillarycare effort in 1994.

Third, the Baucus bill goes to a vote Tuesday. More and more nasty details are emerging about the bill: for example, the plan has an annual cap of $11,900, not including premiums. Also, hospitals are slamming the Baucus bill because Baucus made a commitment to them, that the percentage of Americans covered under the plan would reach a certain level. And then he broke his word. Once the Baucus bill passes, Obama and Reid will throw almost all of its key provisions, including the state-level coops, in the trash.

Fourth, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll, not only do Americans want the public option, by a wide margin – 38 percent of conservatives want it. Could the opt-out plan win some Republican votes?

And one word of warning: some folks think that when the Democrats try to get those 60 votes against cloture, the sticking point may be, not the public option, but the methods of paying for the overall reform package.

And another: Howard Dean pointed out that the public option probably won’t be going full blast until 2013, but they might need to give some folks, like seniors, an early “in”, in time for the midterms.

No comments: